Postcolonial Refashionings: Reading Forms, Reading Novels
Comorau, Nancy Alla
This dissertation reads the postcolonial novel through a lens of novel theory, examining the ways in which the postcolonial novel writes a new chapter in the history of the novel. I explore how Postcolonial writers deploy--even as they remodel--the form of the British novel, which provides them a unique avenue for expressing national and individual historical positions and for imaginatively renegotiating their relationships to the canon and the Commonwealth, past and present. In doing so, they remake the forms they have inherited into the genre of the postcolonial novel. The novel, due to its connection to modernity, the nation, and the formation of the subject, holds different possibilities for postcolonial writers than other forms. My dissertation answers readings of postcolonial texts, which, while often superb in their interpretation of the political, fail to focus on genre. In a fashion, postcolonial novels are read as anthropological works, providing glimpses into a culture, and in a peculiar way the novel comes to operate as the native informant. Given the proliferation of the Anglophone postcolonial novel, I argue that it is important that we consider how the postcolonial novel renders established genres into new forms. I focus on a set of postcolonial novels that specifically engage with canonical British novels, calling attention to the fact that while they share much with their predecessors, they function differently than the novels that have come before them. Unlike early postcolonial arguments about empire "writing back" to the center, which position postcolonial and "English" writers in an antipodal power struggle, I argue that the Anglophone postcolonial novel is at once a descendent of the British novel and a genre unto itself--forming a new limb from the British novel's branch. In doing so, these novels perform new ways of writing modernity, the nation, and the subject. Working from a Bakhtinian theory of the modern novel as a form that creates newness, I demonstrate how postcolonial writers use the history and tradition of the British novel to write, revise, and refashion the novel in English.